The Tennessee coneflower is only found in cedar glades and barrens of Middle Tennessee.
After years of hard work and the support of many dedicated individuals, an iconic flower is once again thriving in Tennessee. On August 4, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the removal of the Tennessee coneflower from the Endangered Species List, marking an extraordinary recovery from the brink of extinction. The story of the coneflower exemplifies the power of conservation.
In 1968, Vanderbilt biology professor Elsie Quarterman and graduate student Barbara Turner accidentally discovered the fuschia-colored coneflowers at Mount View Cedar Glade. The plant had been thought extinct until the rediscovery. In time, three other coneflower sites were discovered in Davidson and Wilson counties. In 1979, the Tennessee coneflower became one of the first plants to be recorded on the Endangered Species List.
Quarterman subsequently became a trustee of the Tennesee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and urged the protection of the cedar glade habitats where the Tennessee coneflower and other rare plants have adapted to live in harsh, stony conditions.
Beginning in 1984, the Conservancy purchased 950 acres of cedar glades in Middle Tennessee, including land at three key sites for the Tennessee coneflower: Couchville Cedar Glade, Vesta Cedar Glade and Mount View Cedar Glade. The cedar glades are located in Davidson and Wilson counties.
The Conservancy purchased property for six cedar glades overall and transferred the properties to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to own and manage. Today all of the properties are protected State Natural Areas, managed by Tennessee’s Division of Natural Areas.
“This is a true conservation success story,” says Gina Hancock, State Director for the Conservancy in Tennessee. “And a great day for Tennessee. In the 1980s, we began a two-decade campaign to purchase key cedar glades to protect the Tennessee coneflower and other rare flowering plants. We saved three key sites for the coneflower.
“With the help of our generous donors and our partners at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, those coneflower populations and three others are healthy and thriving today. The coneflower’s recovery could not have happened without this public-private partnership.”